Somalia’s Deadly Legacy: Landmines and Unexploded Ordinance (UXO)
A failed state for over twenty years, Somalia has been without an effective central government since 1991 following the overthrow of then President Siad Barre. In 2012, the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) successfully drove al Shabaab from its urban strongholds in the south and centre of the country, enabling Somalis to establish a new central government, including members of parliament, a president and prime minister. However, humanitarian conditions remain precarious and the population faces a myriad of issues as a legacy remains after years of fighting which urgently needs to be addressed amid continued insecurity. The landmine problem in Somalia stems from numerous internal and regional conflicts spanning nearly forty years with the first reported mine laid in 1964. The protracted conflict has left a deadly legacy of landmines and unexploded ordnance (UXO) throughout the country, with incidents related to explosives reported almost daily. While the eastern Somalia-Ethiopia border region is heavily infected with UXOs laid during the 1977 border war, al Shabaab militants have similarly affected the centre and south. Mine action facilitates the safe disposal of these items, eliminating the threat to lives, and preventing unsecured items from undermining peace-building and reconstruction efforts.
The UN Mine Action Service (UNMAS) reports that anti-personnel landmines caused only four per cent of deaths and injuries in Somalia during 2011, while UXO represented 55 per cent, and unknown explosive items another 32 per cent. Of 134 known mine/Explosive remnants of war (ERW) casualties verified in 2011, 73 per cent survived their accidents. According to UNMAS, most communities in south-central Somalia suffer “from a degree of explosive remnants of war contamination; few have the support or capacity to deal with these threats.” Moreover, the socioeconomic impact of landmines affect almost every aspect of Somali society: reduced land available for livestock and agricultural production, greater than before transportation costs, poor performance of rehabilitation and development efforts, disabilities and a loss of life, general insecurity, and obstruction of repatriation and reintegration. The UN asserts, however, that Somalia’s landmine and UXO threat is “a finite problem” and one that “given sustained attention,” can be resolved within a ten-year period if resources are made available.
Somalia signed the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention in 2012.
The Somaliland Mine Action Center (SMAC), under the direction of the Office of the Vice-President, is responsible for coordinating implementation of the Act.
Information pertaining to number or types of anti-personnel landmines has not been provided by the government, however officials have acknowledged the existence of stockpiles. The Antipersonnel Mine Ban Act requires the destruction of all stockpiled antipersonnel landmines held by the government of Somaliland within four years.
Explosive stockpiles, abandoned weapons and ammunition caches, and improvised explosive device (IED) factories are the newest threats as the Somali government gains control of areas in centre and south Somalia.